Discovering your passion demands trial and error

by Carly Loman / Beacon Staff • January 19, 2012

“I don’t know what I want to do when I graduate.” It’s a phrase uttered by many an undergraduate across the country, though noticeably less so among the population on our corner of Boylston and Tremont.

Emerson’s focused areas of study tend to attract students who have an idea of what career they wish to pursue. But with the limited experience of a freshman in college, it’s likely their love affair is more with the idea of a certain career than the actual work itself. To truly know what you want to do after graduation, you need to get involved beyond the classroom. In college, extracurricular activities can serve as an accessible opportunity for a (somewhat) real-life working experience.

The first time I visited Emerson, I intended to apply to the film program. At the time, my experience in the medium was limited to a high school class primarily focused on film history and analysis. It wasn’t until I immersed myself in film through production classes outside of school and an internship that I realized it wasn’t what I wished to pursue. 

I was drawn to the idea that a story told with both words and images was more engrossing than one that only used one of the two, and also drawn to the artistry of the images themselves. Not until I started practicing the craft did I consider other elements of the work, such as the collaboration necessary to bring script to screen and the technical knowledge required to convey ideas onto film. 

It was learning what I disliked about film that spurred my passion for writing. Film taught me that I love storytelling. It also taught me that I don’t like all the limitations associated with telling a story through film: actors, locations, and available equipment, for example. With writing, I am only limited by the English dictionary. And even the dictionary can be manipulated with a poetic license and some creativity.

For a failed filmmaker, writing meant boundless creative control. 

As of today, I don’t know exactly what I want to do after school. What I do know is that I like to write and I enjoy politics—I’m a writing, literature, and publishing and political communication double major. 

To narrow the scope of my interests, I have gotten involved in multiple extracurricular activities and internships since coming to Emerson. Through my work with the Beacon, I discovered that while I enjoy writing and editing, I don’t have those warm fuzzy feelings about reporting. With each extracurricular experience, I have learned a little bit more about what I like and what I don’t like. 

And that’s one of the sometimes overlooked benefits of extracurriculars. Sure, they can help solidify in your mind what you enjoy doing but — more importantly — they can show you what you don’t want to do ... before you graduate and realize through work experience that your diploma doesn’t match your actual interests.

This Friday is the spring organization fair — a downsized version of the fall extravaganza. It offers an opportunity for students to walk down the row of booths, imagining their potential futures with each step.

One of the benefits of attending a small college is that many extracurriculars are reasonably sized groups — devoid of larger university-style bureaucracy — in which hard work and dependability will often yield resume and experience-building leadership positions. 

But with the small size of our school also comes a negative — we lack the breadth of extracurriculars that some larger schools may have. So, if your interests fall outside the list of Emerson clubs and organizations, then opportunities for experience must be sought beyond the Boylston Street Station through internships and work experience.

Another downside of our specialized college is that outside experiences may lead you away from the scope of Emerson’s academic offerings. In which case your options may be more limited. Still, one must remember that what you study in college doesn’t necessarily dictate what your career will be — experience does.

Try things out — if not to discover your passion, then to at least realize what it’s not.